Singaporean pop star dropped by his record label for coming out as gay makes triumphant comeback
Willie Tay, a Singaporean pop star whose sexuality cost him his record deal and social media following, has bounced back with a brand new album.
Tay was a rising star on the Singaporean music scene when he came out as gay in 2019. Homosexuality is still criminalised in Singapore, and he was promptly dropped by his record label, whose name he can’t reveal due to his contract.
“It was terrifying, because before I came out to my label, I was worried about losing my job, whether I could continue singing and all of that,” he previously told Billboard.
“So I finally came out to my label and said, ‘I really want to be an openly gay singer, and I think that’s going to help a lot of young lives in Asia.’
“They were like, ‘No, we’re not going to be able to do that because we have our reputation at stake.’ I think they were probably worrying about their stock dropping. So they removed all of my social media and dropped me from their label to be protective about their clients and sponsors.”
Overnight he lost his 300,000-strong online following, and he feared his chance to break into the music industry had passed him by.
His fanbase didn’t disappear though, and the predictions that his sexuality would kill his career were unfounded. He’s now returned to the public eye with a new album and a new stage name – Wils, which he says sounds more friendly.
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Willie Tay has just released his latest album, Don’t Leave Too Soon, an uplifting 12-track exploration of what it’s like to navigate the ups and downs of love as a gay man.
And as he tells the South China Morning Post, his rocky coming out was just the beginning.
“You think you come out of the closet and everything will be bright and colourful,” he laughed. “Then you realise that you have to go through dating as a gay man. And in gay culture, it can be quite challenging – there are lots of different subgroups and categories.
“It’s like for your whole life, you were put into a box for being different. And now when you’re out, you still have to do that.”
He spoke candidly about the effect of Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code, a colonial-era law which LGBT+ activists are fighting to repeal.
“That law is very upsetting,” he said. “When you have a law that criminalises homosexuals, it makes you feel like you are wrong.
“As a Singaporean, having grown up in Singapore, I’ve always loved my country. I still do. The hard part is that we’re all law-abiding citizens, but when there’s a law like that, it feels like we’re going against it. It makes us feel like we’re not guarded by our own country, and that’s painful.”
Willie Tay is currently based in Los Angeles but says he’s still a Singaporean at heart and is open to returning to his country in future. He hopes that his music can help LGBT+ Singaporeans going through the same struggles he did.
“What I really want to share with people – those who are in the closet, those who are struggling with their identity – is that when you are authentic and honest about things, life will bring only the best for you,” he said.
“You just have to be able to look at it, and accept who you are.”